Keema Matar

I’m not sure what it is about 2017, but I’ve really appreciated ground meat more than usual. Much like last month’s Beef Tinaktak, I appreciate the ease and brevity that comes from these quick meals, both done in less than 30 minutes.

Today’s recipe for Keema Matar is a North Indian and Pakistani dish characterized by mincemeat (typically lamb or goat) and peas. The word “Keema” (mincemeat) appears to have a universal origin; in addition to being the same word in Hindi (क़ीमा), Punjabi (ਕ਼ੀਮਾ), and Urdu (قیمہ), similar words can be found throughout Europe and Asia, like the Greek κιμάς (kimás), Turkish kıyma, and Armenian ղեյմա (gyemah). This has led scholars to believe that the Greek “kimas” and English “mince” may share the same origin, from the Proto-Indo-European *(e)mey-, a word that translates to “small, little”, and eventually led to our modern words like “minute”, “diminish”, and “minimum”. Others believe that the Greek “kimas” is derived from the Ancient Greek κόμμα (komma), which translates to “piece, that which is cut off”, and which later became our modern word for “comma”. Isn’t language fun?

While many diners may not recall experiencing Keema Matar as an entrée, they’ve likely seen it before, used as a common filling for everybody’s favorite Indian savory pastry, the mighty samosa.

Keema Matar (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal, Whole30)

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 25 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1″ ginger, cut into matchsticks (sub 1/2 tsp ground ginger and add during step #2)
1 jalapeno pepper or other chile pepper, cut into matchsticks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground lamb (ground beef okay)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
1 pinch ground cardamom
1 bay leaf
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes, fire-roasted preferred
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 squeeze (1/2 tsp) of lemon juice, more to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 6 minutes. Increase the heat to med/high, then as the onion starts to brown, add the fresh ginger (if using), jalapeño, and garlic; sauté until aromatic and just starting to scorch, about 30 seconds, then add the lamb.

2. Sauté the lamb until it is no longer pink, breaking up chunks of meat with your spoon as you go, about 5 minutes. Add the ground ginger (if using), cumin, coriander, garam masala, salt, cardamom, bay leaf, and diced tomatoes; stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the meat is tender and the flavors have married, about 8 minutes.

3. Stir in the peas and simmer until they turn bright green, then remove from heat. Add the lemon juice, then add salt and more lemon juice to taste. Serve with Basmati Rice and Simple Saag.

** To thaw the peas, simply rinse them in a colander under cold water, set aside for five minutes, then rinse again.

** The flavor profile of this dish was a little exotic for our young children, so I added some raisins to each of their dishes; and they both wolfed it down and asked for seconds.

19 thoughts on “Keema Matar

  1. Fascinating – I wonder if it’s also cognate to “kibbe” in Lebanese/Arabic, since “b” and “m” can easily get switched, both being bilabial consonants.

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      1. Thanks for the etymology lesson! Anything interesting on the etymology of the word ‘mattar’? Always thought it was one of the cooler-sounding Hindi words…

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        1. Hi Sarah, great question, but not quite as exciting as keema! Matar/mattar is likely derived from the Sanskrit “madhur”, which means “sweet”. One interesting etymological theory surrounding peas, though, is the fact that foods like cowpeas, chickpeas, and pigeon peas received their names from the universal idea that if other animals eat certain plant foods, they must be okay for humans, too.

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  2. As someone who isn’t super big on making meat dishes, I really love how fast this one is! And you’re little facts at the beginning on language and some history was very cool :) thanks for sharing!

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  3. Keema is a comfort food in our household. My mom devised her own version of Keema Matar some 30 years ago after a memorable meal at an Indian restaurant. It was my favorite dish as a child, and now my kids love it too. We’ve always served it with rice pilaf and raita, and sometimes with chutney. I will have to try this version!

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  4. Well I don’t know what it is about ground meat and 2017 either, but I really really appreciate the recipes! They are quick and easy and delicious, and a wonderful way to use up the ground meat I have languishing in my freezer. We get really tired of boring burgers and meatballs. Thank you!!! This is another really delicious meal.

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  5. loved this dish, perfect for 2 with enough for another meal. when wanting to try a new recipe, I always go to your blog first-never disappointed. last week made chicken marbela and my husband absolutely loved it.

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  6. I could not believe how bold and tasty this dish was – it is worthy of serving to guests next time that opportunity arises. The heat from just one pepper was perfect. I didn’t have ground cardamom but just threw a few pods in early on and I was really pleased with how it came out. I had it over some steamed eggplant and it was wonderful (next time I’ll try the simple saag as well!).

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  7. So glad I found this! M boyfriend has been talking about this dish for ages since he tried it in India a few years back, we haven’t been able to find a good recipe! I will try it out soon! :)

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